Princess Lacey, whose unlikely bond with a college basketball star became a national story, died on Wednesday, her family announced.
Lacey Holsworth, the 8-year-old cancer patient, became close friends with Michigan State’s Adreian Payne after a hospital visit by the Spartans star two years ago.
“Princess Lacey has achieved the ultimate victory,” her parents wrote on the missprincesslacey Instagram account. “She now dances among angels…. The world is a better place because you were in it. Our hearts are broken. We love you Doll. Dance all night… Mommy and Daddy, Will, Mitchell, and Luke #LoveLikeLacey”
Holsworth, who had a fetal-nerve cell cancer, became a fixture around the Michigan State program. She joined Payne on the court during Senior Night festivities at the Breslin Center in East Lansing and then helped the team cut down the nets after the Spartans won the Big Ten tournament title.
After making the trip to Manhattan for the East Regional final at Madison Square Garden, where Michigan State was eliminated by eventual national champion UConn, she joined Payne in Dallas for the College Slam Dunk Championship as part of the Final Four weekend.
“She is such a huge part of my life,” Payne recently told the Detroit News. “And she grew to be part of my family.”
Lacey’s cancer was in remission last spring when the two attended a cancer fundraiser held by ESPN analyst Dick Vitale. The cancer returned in the fall. Vitale, who has pledged to raise money in her honor, said on Twitter “We WILL NOT let her pass in vain ! RIP #ANGELLACEY”
“Wow i dont even wanna believe it @adorablelacey ‘s family is in my prayers,” wrote Payne’s teammate Gary Harris on his Twitter account. “I know she will be watching over us all #RIPLACEY.”
Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo said Lacey will have a lasting impact in a phone interview with USAToday.
“I’m supposed to be a guy who leads men, and now an 8-year-old has impacted my life like this. … the impact on all of us will be lasting, and that’s especially true for Adreian (Payne).”
Izzo said he spoke with Payne early Wednesday morning, the newspaper reported. “Even though he knew this was inevitable, it’s hard,” Izzo said.